Turkey History and Politics

Turkey History and Politics

World War II and Cold War

Turkey stayed out of the Second World War and initially remained neutral. Towards the end of the war, however, she still sided with the Allies. It later became part of NATO and was on the side of the United States during the Cold War.

A politically tense and troubled time began for Turkey in the 1960s. The country’s prime minister, Adnan Menderes, wanted to strengthen the role of Islam in the country and also drove Turkey into debt with the aim of advancing industrialization. Cemal Gürsel overthrew him in 1960 from his position and had him executed.

A civil government followed, tensions and terrorist attacks by left and right extremists, and then another military coup eleven years later. From then on, the rights of the people were further restricted and the power of the government expanded.

Turkey and Cyprus

On the island of Cyprus, a conflict between Greece and Turkey expanded in the 1970s. The Turkish minority living there fought for more rights and against discrimination by the Greek Cypriot population.

This conflict found its expression in conditions similar to civil war. When Cyprus was declared part of Greece in 1974, Turkish troops marched in and occupied the north of the island. The conflict finally culminated in the partition of Cyprus in 1975. You can find out more about this in the history of Cyprus.

Kurds in Turkey, Turks in Kurdistan?

The Kurds are one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state of their own. Most of the Kurdish community lives in Turkey.

There, however, their cultural differences and their own traditions were not taken into account for a long time. Instead, it was claimed that they were Turks. The minority was pressured to adapt and the Turkish government discriminated against them by forbidding them to live out their culture.

Many Kurds resisted this oppression and in 1978 the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, came into being. In 1984 the PKK began to fight against the Turkish military and for more rights of its ethnic group and an independent Kurdish state (Kurdistan). However, the Turkish military was much stronger and this resulted in the destruction of Kurdish villages and the expulsion and murder of many Kurds.

It was not until 1991 that the Kurds were accepted as an ethnic minority. With this, the Kurds had achieved that they were recognized as an independent ethnic group and thus also their language and culture, but they still did not have a state of their own. The Turkish government wanted to prevent this from happening.

Therefore, the fighting continued and the Turkish military cracked down on the Kurds, who in turn repeatedly carried out attacks in Turkey. This ultimately led to an attack by the Turkish army against the PKK in the 1990s. A great many Kurds died and numerous Kurdish villages were destroyed. Even today there are repeated battles between Kurds and the Turkish military.

Political rumors

During the 1980s there was massive unrest and the Turkish government cracked down on opposition members and especially the Kurds. In the meantime, martial law was even imposed, which gave the military even more power to take action against their own people. There have been arrests, torture and executions.

The Turkish government’s suppression and disregard for human rights still prevent Turkey from being accepted into the European Union. She had applied for this as early as 1987. Turkey is always trying to get closer to the West and is also an integral part of NATO. She supported the United States during the Iraq war. However, national interests repeatedly cause tensions with other NATO member states. For example, many NATO members criticize Turkey’s actions against the Kurds.

The further development

Head of State Bülent Ecevits (1999-2000) helped Turkey to achieve more democracy and strengthened human rights in the country, and he also abolished the death penalty. He accommodated the Kurds in the country by giving them the opportunity to live out their own culture more freely in Turkey, s a country located in Asia and Europe according to aristmarketing.

In 2001 a party called the AKP (Justice and Development Party) came to power and initially continued these advances. But that did not stop the political unrest completely. In 2003 there were attacks by the Islamist Al Qaeda organization. There was also repeated fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military. These continue to this day and claim numerous victims, especially on the Kurdish side.

An important date for the political history of Turkey is October 3rd, 2005. Why? On that day, the official accession negotiations with the European Union began. But there is still a very long way to go before actual accession, because the Islamic-conservative AKP is hardly advancing Turkey in matters of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Even the protection of minorities in Turkey, which the EU has called for, is not guaranteed by the government. On the contrary – the military continues to crack down on the Kurds in the country.

Current policy

In recent years Turkey has played an important role in European politics. During the war in Syria, the country took in numerous refugees and received financial support from the EU.

In return, the Turkish government around the current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is demanding that EU accession negotiations be continued. Against this, however, numerous politicians in the EU are reluctant. The Turkish government continues to take massive action against the Kurdish minority in and outside Turkey and regularly violates human rights.

Coup attempt and state of emergency

From July 15 to 16, 2016, there was an attempted coup against Erdogan. This remained unsuccessful and was used by the head of state Erdogan to strengthen his power politically and militarily. The state of emergency serves the President as a justification for arbitrary arrests, especially of critical journalists. Under him, freedom of expression and the press are extremely restricted, which the EU strongly criticizes.

Presidential system

In 2017, there was a so-called constitutional referendum in Turkey, which changed some articles of the constitution. More than half of the population agreed to this change. Most importantly, the president’s rights and influence were greatly enhanced. Some critics argue that the election was rigged. The previously parliamentary system has now been tailored so closely to the Turkish President that we are now talking about a presidential system.

Turkey History